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Alabama Ranked Third in Imperiled Fishes

Alabama River Basins Contain Imperiled Fish

Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Birmingham News staff writer

Alabama is No. 3 in the nation for imperiled fish, according to the first continent-wide study of fishes in 19 years. Alabama's two major river basins lead the continent in fish in trouble.

The Tennessee River basin is No. 1 on the continent for imperiled fish, with 58, according to the report published. The Mobile basin, which encompasses most of Alabama below the Tennessee River, is second in the nation, with 57 fish species in peril.

"Because we have so many aquatic resources, humans use those aquatic resources extensively," said Bernie Kuhajda, collections manager for the fish collection at the University of Alabama. "Through those modificiations we've really altered the aquatic habitat extensively, primarily through damming the rivers and channelization."

The southeastern United States leads in imperiled fish, with species declining faster than in the rest of North America. The Southeast also has the greatest number of rivers and streams and fish species in the continent, according to the new report compiled by U.S., Canadian and Mexican scientists.

Dams fragment fish populations and impede the species that need to migrate, according to the report.

Water quality is one reason fish continue to decline long after the dam building has ended, according to the report. It mentions the silt and dirt that wash into streams and rivers from construction and other disturbed land.

"That's a huge threat to species, especially here in Alabama where we've got the snails and the mussels as well," said April Hall, program manager for the Alabama Rivers Alliance. "When you sediment in the whole bottom of a creek, that's going to affect the critters that live on the bottom, but also the fish that rely on them and their eggs."

Nationally, endangered fish have increased from 103 to 280 species since the first study in 1989. And the number of subspecies in trouble has tripled in 19 years....more

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